Renovation Concludes on Historic Dallas Records Buildings


Renovation Concludes on Historic Dallas Records Buildings | Image by Dallas Morning News

After six years of renovation, the Dallas County Commissioners Court recently met for the first time at its new facility.

Three historic buildings, the 1915 Old Criminal Courts Building, the 1928 Records Building, and the 1955 Records Building Annex, were combined into a new office space for 700 workers. The now-singular building has more than 286,000 square feet of floor space and stands near Dealy Plaza, where John F. Kennedy was shot in 1963.

It has not been officially renamed, but it appears many will continue to call it the Records Building.

Commissioner Elba Garcia, whose administrative office is in the new building, said the old complex was unmanageable because it lacked connectivity and had inefficiently-arranged workspaces.

Dallas County took out $200 million in municipal bonds, which covered the renovation as well as some other county costs. Jonathon Bazan, the assistant county administrator, directed the construction and described the funding as a “pay as you go” method. He said that not only is the County expected to be debt free by 2031, but the County will not have to raise property taxes to pay for the project.

“In comparison with other local governments, Dallas County has one of the lowest debt per capita ratios in Texas,” Bazan said.

The process began in 2014 when the commissioners court created an expert committee, charging it with the responsibility to determine the state of county buildings and potential improvements. The committee recommended that the county renovate the buildings.

In 2016, all county functions were moved out of the records complex, many relocating to leased buildings on Elm and Jackson streets. Construction began the same year.

The project addressed health concerns like asbestos and lead paint as well as replacing heating, cooling, electricity, elevators, and stairs.

“Over a third of the facility was a decommissioned jail that had been vacant for over 20 years,” Dallas County’s construction webpage said. “The majority of the facility had never been renovated, and there was no previous consideration for a functional approach to address the separation points (former alleys) between the three buildings.”

Bazan said that the floors of the former jail were demolished, though they retained some of the death row cells and other portions for possible exhibits.

The Courthouse and 1928 Records Building are listed as state historical landmarks with the Texas Historical Commission, so some construction had to have state approval, Bazan said.

Dallas’ Landmark Commission oversaw exterior improvements, including remodeling the facade. Everything down to paint and windows had to be approved by the commission, Bazan said. The exterior facade has 542 windows.

The records building is part of a larger plan to renovate existing sites and relocate some services to community areas.

Dallas County opened a $30.4 million and a $50 million government center in North and South Dallas, respectively, in 2019. A $35 million Oak Cliff government center was opened in December 2021.

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